U.N. team begins mapping Iraqi presidential sites

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — A U.N. team began mapping Iraq’s presidential compounds Sunday, attempting to help resolve one of the main disputes in the crisis over U.N. inspections of suspected weapons sites, Iraqi sources said.
The teams are not actually investigating the compounds, which Iraq has said are off limits to U.N. weapons inspectors. Instead, U.N. officials hope to use the maps to determine which areas of the sprawling compounds are legitimate targets for inspections and which areas should remain closed.
Iraq has said unrestricted inspections would violate its national sovereignty.
The United States, which has threatened military action against Iraq if it does not open the compounds to inspectors, did not immediately comment on the map-making team.
But Iraq called the development a “positive step,” and warned that a U.S. military strike could destroy a well functioning U.N. monitoring system of suspected weapons sites.
Iraq also refuted the notion that Saddam Hussein’s presidential palaces were off-limits, a claim that was made earlier Sunday by the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Richard Butler, in a CNN interview.
Gen. Amir al Sa’adi, when asked if the Iraqi government is open to inspection of at least part of the restricted sites, said: “We are flexible.” He did not elaborate.
Access to the presidential sites is at the core of the current crisis. The United States and Britain have threatened to attack Iraq if President Saddam Hussein does not completely open his palaces to U.N. inspectors.
The United Nations and the United States say the inspectors can search any place they want. Iraq has refused, citing national sovereignty.